The end of a Georgetown institution
- remembering the Palm Court
October 12, 2003
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“We Guyanese men then were all Sir Walter Raleighs”
After 50 years plus, Georgetown’s No.1 Oasis, Palm Court, is ‘emigrating’. After that cowboy old west saloon shoot-out a few months ago, that almost sent the owner to ‘Boot Hill’, well it’s last train to gunhill!
In my time - yesteryear - we club-hopped to shoot pool - shoot the breeze - shark and refresh. Today it’s the same, but patrons are armed to the teeth like ‘Pancho Villa,’ and paint the town ‘red’ - with blood!
Palm Court was truly an oasis, a watering hole, ideally located on ‘our’ Main street, sandwiched (in my time) between the Customs House and Esso’s Head Office, later the US Embassy, that issued us lucky exiles that large brown paper package, our precious visa. Two buildings to the south you could even get your departure tickets from BWIA, later GAC, worship across the street at the Sacred Heart Cathedral giving thanks for your deliverance.
Obliquely north, an institute of higher education, the ‘Cambridge’ hotel and a few yards back, thru the dilapidated pailings, our own Hell’s Kitchen, Tiger Bay!
The entrance, was a narrow wrought iron gate that could only accommodate a piano sideways. If the ‘banna’ was FBI you entered, hug-up and show-off on the stag line. If she huge like a ‘fridgdaire - one at a time please. Groomed hibiscus along the front fence ensured privacy for all those ‘melting ice’, frothing with endless old-talk!
Parking was free, both sides of the one-way street, even if you had to park in front the ‘Governor’s Mansion’ down the road and ask the guard, who you knew, to keep an eye on ‘Bessie’.
Everyone knew everyone in my time! White, puttagee, black, chinee, coolie, buck, dougla, all the same, with each individual having nuff ‘broughtupsy!’ Colour was only important on the ‘silver screen’ and in crayon boxes!
Confident your wheels were safe, you strolled, arm around the craft, along the avenue under flamboyant trees past Park Hotel, a little hesitancy needed to cross Bentick St, an excuse to hug her caringly tight. We Guyanese men then were all Sir Walter Raleighs!
There was no scourge of the land (mini-buses) in my time. Choke and rob, the national plague, came Feb 16 1962. Buxton was then a quiet village known for delicious spice mangoes Now, they are their own republic!
Palm Court was always the ideal place to ‘court’ the special missus. In the late fifties, ‘58/59, before barbecues became popular, it was the ideal nightspot for that special Sat Night Date. $18 gave you dinner for two, the house special fillet mignon grilled with liver. During the month, awaiting payday, you treated her to chicken ‘in-the-rough’ $1.25 or Salisbury Steaks $2.00 - and the service included finger-bowls! We had class in ‘dem days’, a partner of mine even, sipped the finger bowl and complained the shun needed more salt.
The dancing fare was a three/four piece Orchestra - Nello and the Luckies dishing out ‘Mon Coeur est un violin’. Young couples in close ‘hug-up’ embrace on a living room size dance floor and each couple a Fred Astaire/ Ginger Rogers. ‘White Men Can’t Jump or dance’, did not apply to us sugarfoot Guyanese!
I courted for three years at Palm Court and after all my Donald Trump outlay to show-off and impress, took her on the opening night to see Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ at the Globe, 1960 August. The ‘madam’ didn’t speak to me for three months. Her complaint, my insensitivity! Eventually after nuff soor, cochore, beg back I convinced her I thought ‘Psycho’ was a musical! Ya think it easy?
Strand Deluxe had already opened with ‘Marlon Brando in Sayonara’- She liked that mushy soap opera! I thought it was a flop, no blood, guns, violence, car chases nor explosions - and the ‘starboy’ mumbled like Cato.
Palm Court was cool, romantic evenings - sooring the ‘banna’ open air under palm fronds - later a quiet park on the sea wall - a princely courtship every Sat night! Exiting at the evening’s end, you bought your Sunday Graphic from the hucksters outside - and later, a coconut water night-cap from Watson at Vlissengen, opposite Doren!
Final charge-up a Hunte / Pemya cook-up, 4am Black Pudding at O’Jay’s Sheriff St or speak-easy Pepperpot - in the backyard behind Gimpex, Regent St.
It was ‘infra dig’ going home before sunrise Sunday morning!
The other places to dance were Carib, the Sports Clubs (BGCC, Chinese, Portuguese, Bookers). The ‘psychedelic’ night club came years later with ‘Dog & Bone.’
In ‘66 my office was upstairs in the Palm Court - my boss’ bq flat was at the back - available for his monthly visit from T’dad. I had the key. Employed at Esso next door from ‘67, Palm Court was the happy hunting ground! We signed fluent drink chits with senior management signatures as they had lavish entertainment expense accounts.
At this time all us fine Cannibals could afford ‘wheels’, Toyota Corona $4200, Deluxe $4500, Crown $5200, Morris Oxford $4500, Minor $3200, Hillman $3900, Volkswagen $3900. Gasolene 60 cents a gallon - paycheck a handsome $250 pm!
Today, a nightspot visit locally requires an armour plated bullet proof vest, a briefcase of money and a lucky charm around the neck! Guess if there is no more ‘Palm Court’ - Palm House is next!
Thank Heavens some of us can reminisce. Those were the days my friend!